Now that show and meet season is upon us it’s time to gather with our fellow enthusiasts and share stories of modifying our cars. We’ve already covered the beginners guide to modifying your GTI, so we thought we’d share a few of our favorite tuning myths and misconceptions and shed a little light on the truth of each!
Myth 1: Lowering Your Car INSTANTLY Makes It Better This is a very common myth in many European car enthusiast circles. From BMW’s to VW’s, many have falsely bought into this myth. We recognize that the desire to lower one’s car stems from the glory days of the DTM racing series where E30’s/E36’s, 190 E’s, and Quattro’s were all slammed, tucking more than wheel. But they had a little more engineering behind their “look” than just cut springs or a basic set of coilovers. Yes, lowering the center of gravity of your car DOES have the potential for increased performance IF it’s done right. Most European performance cars go through rigorous design and testing processes to find the perfect balance of performance and comfort. Most are also based on testing done on the racetrack with factory backed racing efforts, just like in the DTM of old. We are talking about the belief that “going low at any cost” helps your car’s performance, specifically:
Cutting your springs- The belief that cutting your stock springs instantly provides better handling over stock is FALSE! Cutting the springs changes the geometry of the suspension, increasing wear and tear on the shocks (which are most often not upgraded as they should be to accommodate the increased loads), and putting the bump stops into overtime (if they are even left in there at all). This method may give you that slammed look you are going for but it will end up costing you in increased wear and tear and far more maintenance costs.
Budget one-way adjustable coilovers The is one our favorites from the VAG scene, “just throw a set of so-and-so cheapo coilovers on there and you’re set!”. Again, this is a great option if you are only going for style and looks. The truth is that the performance gains, most often, are minimal and in some cases worse than stock. What enthusiasts often forget is that when they lower their car on coilovers they are actually increasing the pre-load on the shock. Yes, it’s true that most budget coilovers come with more aggressive springs rates and in some cases more aggressive valving but the same principle as cutting your springs applies. The increased load on the other parts of your suspension, the parts you haven’t modified definitely have a negative effect on performance over time. Control arm bushings, strut mounts, tie rods etc are all asked to do more in more extreme angles than they were originally designed for. IF you do it right and upgrade these components along with the installation of your budget coilovers, you might have an argument for increased performance. As for us, we would recommend a track-tuned and tested set of coilovers. Although the cost for a set like this is generally higher, the return on the investment is immense.
Myth 2: Mad Camber Means Mad Cornering! This myth goes hand-in-hand with myth #1- adding mad camber to your slammed ride increases performance 10 fold. FALSE!!! Most often we see camber added to a car in order for it to achieve “ultimate low” on bags or if the owner is old school, coilovers. Unless you live in Nurburg, Germany and your daily commute includes a blast around a certain 12.9-mile stretch of road, adding negative camber at extreme levels only makes things worse. First off, no enthusiast drives their car 10/10ths on the street all the time. So in that 99% normal driving situation, you are just adding increased wear to your tires and, again, your suspension components. Camber wear is real in the VAG enthusiast world. We’ve seen some sets of brand new tires only last 4000 miles because their owners had to have that look. If you are tracking or auto-crossing your car, however, dialing in the right amount of camber can definitely help your performance.
Myth 3: All Cone Air Filter/Intakes Are Created Equal We’ve all had that friend tell us to throw a cone filter on our cars to open up that 10-15hp increase. “All cone filters work the same”, they say. FALSE! The truth is that some air filters and intakes may actually hinder your car's performance. For instance, some oiled filters may cause issues with your MAF over time, decreasing power and increasing wear. Another falsity we see is just throwing a cone intake in the engine bay without any shrouding. Engine bays get hot, and even the airflow coming through as we drive isn’t enough to cool them down. Some filters will suck that heat right up, decreasing engine performance through increased heat soak. We recommend you do your research, find the best intake and filter solution for your specific platform and go forward knowing you are actually bolting on power when you do so.
Myth 4: No-Name Parts from Ebay are Just as Good as the Original The old saying “you get what you pay for” still applies in modern society, especially when it comes to performance parts for your European car. You might find yourself saying “But I had a friend who got 100k miles out of an Ebay turbo”. It’s true there is the occasional diamond in the rough, but we would never recommend changing your car with cut-rate no-name foreign parts manufacturers. The issue is there are many foreign manufacturing facilities that can copy a product, but they do so without any of the testing or quality control of the original manufacturer. Most often the materials used differ from the original and can lead to premature failure. But hey, at least you only paid 1/4th the cost and as long as it didn’t damage your car/engine (which it most often does) you can just keep the cheap parts cycle going. Please, don’t be this person. Do right by your mods and they will do right by you!
Myth 5: Stickers Add 5hp This is obviously false, unless of course they are Integrated Engineering stickers ;) What are some of your favorite tuning myths? Share them with us on our Facebook page here or here in the comments. We’ll highlight/respond to a few of our favorites!